data recovery pictureFree Data Recovery Software!

Ok, so you didn't have your data backup in place and you lost some files! So long as your hardware was not physically damaged, there is still a chance you may be able to recover your files with free or very inexpensive data recovery software. Free data recovery software is a bit hard to come by but I've rounded up a few good ones for a quick review here. Also, I might add on mention of a few very inexpensive shareware data recovery programs.

An important thing to consider with data recovery:

If you decide to go the freeware or shareware route, whatever data recovery tool you try just try to use one that DOES NOT REQUIRE INSTALLATION. That's right, the software should run right off floppy, flash or CD. For recovery software that requires installation, you must have a second drive! Otherwise, installation of the recovery software will just permanently overwrite your data. Ouch!

Some helpful tips for using freeware data recovery software

  1. If your drive is making strange noises or reports a CRC read IO error, DO NOT PROCEED. This indicates a hardware failure so your data is not going to be recoverable using "undelete" style data recovery software.
  2. As soon as you realize your data has been deleted, stop using the computer! The less activity the better to avoid dangerous disk-swap activity.
  3. Find and download data recovery software on another computer.
  4. Save the recovery tool to a flash drive and run it directly from there.
  5. Save the extracted data back onto the flash drive for added safety.

Free Data Recovery Software Roundup!

free tag NTFS-reader Icon

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Download NTFS-reader!

Lightweight free undelete-type data recovery!

NTFS Boot Disk provides access to your NTFS drives in an MS-DOS environment (long filenames are supported). NTFS Reader for DOS will allow you to browse and recover all kinds of deleted files.

Although it looks rudimentary, the DOSishness is actually a real boon since Windows isn't running and mucking up your data with disk swapping. NTFS provides good data browsing and preview functionality and runs straight from a boot disk (which you should make on another computer).

free tag File-Recovery Icon

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Download File-Recovery!

PC-Inspector File Recoery - Fast Free but requires installation

PC Inspector File Recovery is a data recovery program with support for FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS file systems. It recovers files with the original time and date stamp, and can optionally restore them to a network drive and can recover many files, even when a header entry is no longer available. On FAT systems, the programs finds partitions automatically, even if the boot sector or FAT has been erased or damaged. PC Inspector File Recovery offers an easy to use interface that will scan your drive and automatically make files that can be recovered available from a "Deleted" folder in an Explorer Style navigation tree.

To be able to use PC Inspector File Recovery you need a working Windows System. Never install the current version on the drive from which you intend to recover data! The program must be installed and run on a second, independent drive.

free tag Restoration Icon

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Download Restoration!

Restoration - Small, fast and Easy. No install but runs from Windows

Restoration is an easy to use and straight forward tool to undelete files that were removed from the recycle bin or directly deleted from within Windows. Upon start, you can scan for all files that may be recovered and also limit the results by entering a search term or extension.

In addition, Restoration also provides an option to wipe the found files beyond simple recovery. And as such it is not only a data-recovery tool but also a security cleanup application. You can use it to totally delete your files so that no recovery is possible.

The program is very small and completely stand-alone, it does not require installation and can also run from a Floppy disk. Restoration works with FAT and NTFS as well as digital cameras cards.